A makeup artist is a professional who specializes in the application of makeup. This can include special uses such as theatrical and effects makeup as well as more standard cosmetics. Makeup artists must understand a wide body of knowledge, including color, skin tones, lighting and, often, how the results will appear on film or video. A highly skilled makeup artist can win recognition and acclaim, like the best artists in any field. Face painting and hair styling are separate disciplines from makeup, but they are sometimes grouped together, and makeup artists might have skills in these fields as well.
The art of applying makeup is a skill that many women in the Western world learn in their teens or even earlier. Properly applied, cosmetics can disguise blemishes and accentuate desirable features without their presence being readily apparent. Most women learn how to apply makeup only to their own faces; the professional makeup artist, male or female, applies makeup to others on a full-time basis. The job can require long hours and early mornings, because it often involves preparation for elaborate shoots or presentations. Even the simple, unobtrusive makeup used for weddings, modeling jobs and fashion design can take hours to apply properly.
Theatrical makeup is a separate discipline that requires specialized training. The theatrical makeup artist prepares performers for appearances on film, television or the stage. Each medium has its own requirements, and makeup artists must know how to prepare for all of them. For example, makeup that is adequate for a stage drama might be too obvious in a film, where actors’ faces are often shot in close-up views. The advent of high-definition films and television has increased the challenges for makeup artists, because the makeup must be subtler still.
Effects makeup takes theatrical makeup to its extremes. Performers might be made to appear older, disguised or transformed into another species entirely. Latex appliances can change the shape of a face, then can be blended with the skin to look natural. Special appliances called prosthetics can alter the body further, for example, changing someone into a robot or a zombie. Even with modern digital technology, these traditional makeup effects, called practical effects or “practicals,” are still common.
A makeup artist might also be required in less common situations. Large churches with televised services might employ professional makeup artists. Morticians learn a version of the skill to prepare bodies for presentation at funerals. Trade shows and civic centers might have makeup artists on staff or freelancers on call; other venues that use makeup artists include theme parks, cruise ships and specialty restaurants. Top artists in this field can be recognized with Oscars and other entertainment industry awards.